By this time in the year seemingly every website and every CFB handicapper has formulated a list of this year’s overrated CFB teams. Unfortunately, this is a highly subjective list, filled with personal opinions with firm lines yet to be set on the opening week of play and August training camp still to occur. Much can happen between now and when the ball goes in the air in early September.
Based on the work I have done to date, with still much to come, this is my opening list of 2015 CFB TOP 10 OVERRATED football teams ( a companion article featuring the UNDERRATED 2015 teams will follow). For now, let’s focus on a group of 10 teams, who, based on their performance of recent seasons and particularly last season may be OVERRATED in the eyes of the public and the linemaker. The teams are in alphabetical order with a brief thumbnail sketch following each team.
Air Force (Troy Calhoun 8 years)
After a pair of rare losing seasons, 6-7 SU in 2012 (only 5 returning starters) and 2-10 SU in 2013 (only 8 returning starters), the Falcons soared to 10-3 SU, 7-5 ATS last year in no small part due to 16 returning starters. Key was a defense that went from allowing 40 PPG, 250 RYPG and 5.1 YPR to just 24 PPG, 137 RYPG and 3.9 YPR. That makes Air Force a bit rich now that they have just 10 returning starters, including 4 on the defensive side of the ball. The return of 60% of their lettermen is a further complication in their ability to obtain continuity and chemistry of last season.
Arizona St. (Todd Graham, 3 years)
Sun Devils a little too hot to handle right now! Graham comes off consecutive 10 win seasons (and a combined 14 conference wins) in the last 2 years. As one of last year’s youngest teams, they return 79% of their lettermen and 17 starters, a positive omen. But, a +14 net TO season and a more difficult slate in 2015 may have results declining in the face of the linemaker’s increased expectations.
Clemson (Dabo Swinney, 6 years)
Clemson backers have caught a Tiger by the tail with magical HC Swinney leading this group of cats to 4 consecutive 10 win seasons, in which they have a combined mark of 42-11 SU. But if last year’s 5-7 ATS mark is any indication, ATS success will be tough to obtain in 2015. OC Morris, the architect of 40 PPG seasons, in 2012 and 2013, is off to SMU. Only 3 defensive starters return (among only 9 returning starters in all) to a stop unit that allowed just 17/261 last year. With only a projected 7 senior starters returning and 61% of their lettermen, this may look more like a rebuilding year than the projected high-conference finish that many expect once again.
Georgia (Mark Richt, 14 years)
It is dangerous to include the Bulldogs on this list, as veteran HC Richt just continues to grind out winning seasons. Richt is now 80-37 SU in league games and 46-15 SU as pure traveler. But, the offense (a combined 39 PPG L3Y) will slow with a new OC and QB, as well as the loss of RB Gurley. Not sure the bloated preseason expectations are warranted, considering the fact that the Bulldogs lost 3 times as a favorite of 7 or more points last year (SC, FLA and GA Tech) and were the beneficiary of a whopping +16 in net TOs. A relatively low number of projected senior starters and only 65% returning lettermen could lead to chemistry issues.
LA Tech (Skip Holtz, 2 years)
Holtz was lucky to get a job, after his debacle at USF. A 4-8 SU, 4-7 ATS maiden voyage in Ruston in 2013 did little to salvage his rep. But, a 9-5 SU, 11-2 ATS 2014 season keyed by improvement on offense from 19 to 37 points has expectations high once again for the Bulldogs this season. Among the main reasons is Florida transfer, QB Driskel. At least in the early going, it will be more meaningful that the +16 net TOs of last year’s team will lead to an underperformance more consistent with Holtz’ recent coaching record.
Missouri (Gary Pinkel, 14 years)
Play against veteran HC Pinkel at your own risk based on his 23-5 SU, 19-7 ATS record of the last 2 seasons which have garnered a pair of SEC East Titles. But, that is a pretty tough act to follow with overrated QB Mauk and a new DC in Odum. Happy to take my chances that the 7-1 SU, 5-1 ATS finish of Mizzou leaves them overrated to begin the season.
Oregon (Mark Helfrich, 2 years)
Third year HC Helfrich stepped into a good situation with a winning program and a Heisman QB. His first 2 seasons were 24-4 SU, 17-9 ATS. Let’s see how he does with an E. Washington transfer at the signal caller position. He will need every one of those +23 net TOs (led the nation), if the ATS magic is to continue.
Rutgers (Kyle Flood, 3 years)
Credit to HC Flood for leading the Knights to 3 consecutive Bowl games in his first 3 seasons! That includes an 8-5 SU, 8-4 ATS record from last season courtesy of going 4-1 in games decided by a touch or less. But with only 10 returning starters, only 7 projected senior starters, just 65% returning lettermen, these Knights are one of the least experienced teams in Big 10 play. Very seldom do you see a winning team allow 213 or more yards on both the ground and through the air, as Rutgers did last season.
TCU (Gary Patterson, 14 years) What a magical season for TCU! After a pair of combined seasons of 11-14 SU, 8-15 ATS in Big 12 Conference play, everything broke right, including a +18 net TO margin for the Frogs last year. The result? A 12-1 SU, 10-2 ATS mark, including 8-1 SU, 7-2 ATS in the Big 12. Top it off with a 3-0 SUATS finish (wins of 38 over Texas, 52 over Iowa St. and 39 over Ole Miss) and you will see why with 16 returning starters (including 14 seniors) and 77% returning lettermen that TCU is on the most loved list of every handicapper in America. You know how that works out!
UCF (George O’Leary, 11 years) What a run by the Knights, who have gone 31-9 SU L3Y. That includes 9-4 SU LY in the face of losing QB Bortles and RB Johnson. Now that the Knights are on top (of most AAC predictions), let’s see how they fare with 10 returning starters (only 5 projected seniors) and just 63% of their lettermen returning. O’Leary’s leadership abilities will clearly be challenged this season.
By Joe Gavazzi